CPSC Warns Of Carbon Monoxide Risks As Hurricane Season Causes Power Outages

After large areas of the gulf coast were left without power in the wake of Hurricane Laura, federal safety officials issued renewed warnings for consumers about the risks associated with using portable generators throughout the current storm season, which may increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a portable generator carbon monoxide (CO) warning, alerting those who were without power due to follow a series of simple safety instructions to prevent potentially fatal CO poisoning risks, echoing warnings that are regularly issued every hurricane season.

The warning was released in light of the recent impacts of hurricanes Isaias and Laura which left millions in the southern Coastal and Gulf areas of Texas and Louisiana without power, forcing many to resort to portable gas generator to power their homes and appliances.

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As of September 1, the Louisiana Department of Health has identified at least 15 hurricane-related deaths caused by the hurricane Laura, in which more than half were caused by CO poisonings from improper use of portable generators.

Lake Charles Louisiana officials reported five carbon monoxide deaths occurred in one household, which was operating a gas generator in an attached garage. Officials reported the door connecting the home to the garage was left partially open, allowing fumes to enter the residence, ultimately causing fatal levels of carbon monoxide gas to fill the home.

CPSC officials warn consumers to never use a generator inside a home, garage or shed and recommend keeping generators at least 20 feet away from their home and never near doors, windows or air vents leading into a structure.

Doors and windows should be shut to prevent CO from entering the home and carbon monoxide alarms should be installed on every level of the home and outside of all sleeping areas, the CPSC advises. If your home is already equipped with carbon monoxide detectors, consumers should check the batteries to ensure they are working properly.

Carbon monoxide is often described as the “silent killer”, as the gas has no smell, taste, color or other irritating factors that may allow individuals to detect a leak. Following prolonged exposure, symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure may result in mental confusion, vomiting, loss of consciousness and quickly cause death.

All heating systems that work off of oil, propane or natural gas including gas generators emit carbon monoxide and are commonly used heavily over the hurricane season and winter months during cold temperatures and power outages.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), carbon monoxide poisoning kills about 500 people in the U.S. annually, and is linked to about 15,000 emergency room visits, many of which could have been prevented by the use of carbon monoxide detectors and proper maintenance of heating systems and generators.

As hurricane season continues just before the approach of cold winter months, officials are asking consumers to adjust any preparedness actions based on the COVID-19 guidelines recommended by the CDC and local health officials. Emergency preparedness bags should include additional items such as face coverings and sanitation products to help prevent the spread of the virus at shelters. The agency is reminding consumers to always keep their medications, hand sanitizers and cleaning products in child-resistant containers and out of reach from children in the home and at evacuation sites.


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